Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Adam Blue Project Update: Motivation, Strategy, Update and Excerpts from Day 12


Well, it's strange. I think I kind of missed the point of this blog, which was half about working on the Adam Blue project to begin with. Yesterday, I posted an entry after finishing the most productive day of work yet and it spurred me onward to eek out some more writing today.

I think I owe a lot of my early successes to the fact that I received constant motivation from my readers. Those pats on the back went a long way towards making me feel like I wasn't working in a vacuum. During the seven months or so (math is stupid) I was working on the project in Iraq I got a ton of positive feedback from the readers of my MySpace blog. (Several of whom will receive free copies of the final product in appreciation of that much needed help.)

Last week, Monica (Garden State of Euphoria) asked me a fairly poignant question about what it takes to actually put words down...

How do you deal with a little ailment that goes something like 'I keep writing in my head but can't seem to sit still long enough to type it up and hit submit'?
At first, I didn't really have a good answer. The only time I'd made any significant progress writing was in Iraq when I was posting the Adam Blue stories as I completed them. I realized that the reason I was having such a problem editing and adding to the existing content was because I was working in a vacuum. I had pulled all my Adam Blue material off of my MySpace blog, and swore not to publish any more of it until it came out in an actual no shit book. A great plan, except that I apparently suck at self-motivating. I got myself into a bind of sorts because I couldn't just publish the book wholesale on my blog in its final form, and I couldn't finish it without sharing my work in progress. I don't really have a local writer circle to bounce my ideas off of, and I can't spread material I want to be paid for across the internet... so I need some sort of compromise.

That compromise is this: as I complete material for the book I'll be posting excerpts on the blog and write about the process I used to complete that particular section. Writing the second draft has been a lot more complicated, I find myself checking references for dates, events, factoids and that sort of thing. That gives me a little bit more to talk about here in the blog to make up for the fact that I won't be posting whole chapters here.


After a trip to the bookstore and a lot of talk about writing the other day, I hit the ground motivated. I worked for about thirteen hours yesterday, and five hours today (on and off) to iron out two chapters of the book. Here are the write-ups from my chapter tracker...

Adam Blue and the Giant
Consisting of Adam Blue and the Sticky Situation, Adam Blue Doesn’t Find Jesus and new text, this chapter combines two day time events into a single day. This chapter focuses more on the sun and further expands Horus Alcott in a mostly negative way.

Mack Loses a Tooth
Consisting of all new text, this chapter details Mack’s helicopter ride and the subsequent crash in the desert, and his escape from the scene. The Sun speaks, but makes no direct communication with Mack. Mack’s religious beliefs may play a large role.

The green highlight is a good thing, in my tracker the green highlight means that the text is down in its second draft format and is still open for editing. Yellow means it is partially written or only contains first draft text, and red means it hasn't been written at all. Once I am absolutely satisfied with a chapter, I clear all highlights. It takes a lot for me to be absolutely satisfied with a chapter, I just cleared the first chapter yesterday and it had been green for over a month and a half. I was struggling over a single sentence.

Anyway, Adam Blue and the Giant was the longest chapter I've completed to date. I combined two daytime events into a single string of events. I did this for two reasons. One, Adam Blue and the Sticky Situation did a good job of giving a strong introduction to the sun, but it was lacking in meat when it came to length and actually developing the story. Adam Blue Doesn't Find Jesus had some major flaws, both stylistically and in terms of character personality. It did however plant the seed of Mack's plot-line, which ended up emerging with some fairly strong solo chapters much later in the project. Adam Blue Doesn't Find Jesus had some strong content in terms of imagery, but it needed a lot of work to fit in with my second draft vision of the book. By linking the two chapters I cut down on the amount of jumping around that the reader has to put up with by forming a single linear series of events, and I made a more presentable looking chapter in terms of length and consistency.

So here is an excerpt from the newly minted Adam Blue and the Giant...

Morning, Day 12: Adam Blue and the Giant

Adam slipped out, turning quickly to curse the sun.

"Fucking bastard!" He said. His voice was crisp and low.

The sun held its silence. It pretended not to hear Adam, as if it had some other solar system somewhere else it was keeping warm. The sun acted like it was stepping out on its satellites to visit other orbital bodies in some other galaxy. The sun wanted Adam to believe it was living a double life. Adam knew the sun wasn't doing anything that exciting.

"What did you say, Blue?" Alcott asked.

Alcott made a point of only hearing things that confirmed his presumptions about the nature of existence. In his opinion, he Ulysses S. Alcott was not a fucking bastard. In truth, he considered himself to be a role model and a leader. He wasn’t. He had a fairly good heart and a bad brain filled with bile, hatred and the ignorant preaching of those who came before him.

Adam spoke truthfully, "I said fucking bastard, because he is."

The fat toad's eyes exploded open in confusion, they meandered back and forth in a clumsy dance. When performed by a more gracefully featured person this expression might have been called darting. His hand awkwardly scoured the desk for a forgotten can of soda. He clutched the aluminum vessel and brought it to his chapped lips, and then he took a long sip from the day old cola. He cleared his throat, emptying stale tobacco juices, snot and dust into his mouth. He spat back into the can and looked at Adam.

"What? Who is?" Alcott asked.

Adam spoke falsely, "My father."

Adam’s father was, incidentally, not a fucking bastard at all, but was in fact a fairly likeable guy. Adam's dad went to work every day, he wore a tie, suspenders and leather shoes. No one had ever had a problem with Adam's dad, ever. He was meek and reliable man.

"Well, we can handle that on your personal time. There's work to be done Blue… but if you need to talk about it, I think I know a thing or two about bad parents." Alcott said, with a brown smile.

Alcott knew more than a thing or two, having been a poor father to five children of his own. Given ample time and motivation, his ex-wife could attest to his failings as a father and as a husband. These were the traits he’d inherited from his own Army father, who had inherited them from his Army father, and so on through the twisted branches of his overpopulated and miserable family tree.

"Roger, Sergeant." Adam said with just enough feigned excitement to not be labeled what some people in his profession would call a ‘shit-bag.’

In the Army, a shit-bag was the worst kind of person, they were a boneless bag of skin filled with human waste: useless brains, broken hearts, damaged kidneys, and dying livers. Almost every single person Adam had ever met in the Army was a shit-bag in at least some capacity. It was a natural result of doing the job. Sergeant Alcott was the biggest shit-bag of all, having done the job since before Adam was born. He suffered from all of the tell-tale ailments brought on by shit-baggery.

I ended up completely pulling the opening of Mack's plot-line from the last chapter in order to give it a bit more attention. Since I already had later chapters exclusively featuring Mack on his own, I thought I would run his story parallel to Adam's in separate chapters from the start of the book. This chapter proved to be one of the most difficult I had to write. I'm not very good with action sequences and this chapter called for a helicopter crash. Have I mentioned that I've never been in a helicopter crash? Thankfully, in this day and age we have YouTube to come to the rescue. A simple search for helicopter crashes yielded plenty of fodder to draw from. The following videos were particularly helpful...

So, let's see how I did. Here's an excerpt from a chapter comprised of all new material, Mack Loses a Tooth...

Afternoon, Day 12: Mack Loses a Tooth

The pilot screamed into his headset, and the black hawk lurched downward. The aircraft heaved riotously, rocked by an explosion. Flares fired from the rear port side of the craft, moments too late to deter the attack. The wounded howl of the rotors was peppered with the clangor of flying debris, terrified screams filled the black hawk as it spun wildly out of control.

Mack tilted his head back and closed his eyes as the torque of the engines jerked the helicopter into a spiraling descent. The noise of rockets pierced the uproar of the crashing bird. Their noses tore through the atmosphere leaving a ripple of distorted fury in their wake as they shot towards the two other helicopters in the chalk. Hugo tensed beside him, screaming, terrified.

“Oh shit, oh shit, holy shit!” Hugo chanted.

“We’ll be okay, if we all do it the same.” Mack stated, his eyes still pressed closed as he leaned as far forward as his safety belts would allow. He slid his hands behind his neck. His mind wandered to the tornado drills of his childhood. The siren wailing as the teachers ushered all the students into the hallway. He remembered crouching with the top of his head to the wall and his hands bracing his spine at the base of his skull. The smell of floor wax and forty-year old grass stains on his knees overpowered the acrid smoke from the shattered tail rotor. The slick smell of human feces rising from the Tigris disappeared. The four strapped harnesses wrapped around his body were the reassuring liver-spotted hands of Mrs. McGillis letting him know he was doing just fine, just dandy. He could remember the shaking of her stiff arthritic fingers scratching out the principles of tornado safety on the blackboard.

“Everyone do it the same.” She said, her graying red bun of hair facing the class.

The long sleeve of her dress sagged down to her elbow, the bones of her forearm visibly rubbing together beneath her pale skin. Mack remembered not knowing what a widow was. It was some sort of nervous condition afflicting Mrs. McGillis, those were things children whispered, things they repeated. How could he have known that her husband had died, how could he have known that anyone could die? The tragic fate of sea monkeys provided little meaningful education in regards to matters of life and death. If nothing else, flushing the briny bowls of water down the toilet made him even less cognizant as a child of the divide separating what is from what is no longer.

The black hawk dipped suddenly to the side, mowing down the tops of the palm trees with its blades. The airfoils made quick work of the upper fronds, and dug effortlessly into their narrow boles. Trees cracked as the helicopter sawed through the grove, tipping this way and that. Wet chunks of vegetation flew into the air, and the nose assumed a downward profile as it smashed into the hard dirt riverbank. The lift of the tattered airfoils and the momentum of the crash spun the aircraft on its nose, balancing briefly as the rotors shattered, and then it crashed into the water on its side. The helicopter twirled twice on its side in the mud before coming to a standstill in the slick brown waters. The river rushed in through the open sides, viscous and dark.

“Walk, don’t run, out of the classroom.” Mrs. McGillis continued.

Mack opened his eyes, dangling sideways from his seat, blood pouring from his mouth and nose. Hugo lay limp beside him, his face bobbing in the surface of the water. Mack reached down, grabbing the front lip of his helmet and he pulled Hugo’s battered face out of the water.

“We’ll be okay, if we all do it the same.” Mrs. McGillis said.

Hugo’s eyelids burst open, his left eye was large and black, the pupil exploding over the retreating silver of the iris. He coughed blood and silt from the river, black and slimy down the side of his face.

“I’m s-sorry I called you an-an-an asshole.” Hugo managed to say.

“What?” Mack asked.

Hugo expired, feeling no reason to further elaborate.

Hope you enjoyed my new strategy. It helps me to share my work, and I'd appreciate any feedback, tips or questions you might have.

Also, I think more people should see the picture posted on Monica's blog...

And thus, I've justified my favorite tag.


Gene said...

i know, ten inch cocks, i'm used to the one i have.

COL Mack is BACK!

Ryan Placchetti said...

Grammar college boy.

And yeah, Mack is going to get a lot more face time in the second draft.

kjesterm said...

These bits and pieces are good... really fucking good... but I'm greedy. Stop MyStalking people and get back to work on my book so I can devour the whole thing.

Ryan Placchetti said...

Between the blog and the actual book material I wrote about 5,000 words over the past two days. It's a start.